Dr. Tyler Frankel, Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences, brings students into his cutting-edge research on pollution from Virginia coal ash landfills. He is the recipient of multiple grants from organizations such as the Morris Animal Foundation, FMC Corporation, Crow’s Nest Research Center, Rappahannock EcoPark Support Grant Program, and the JF Environmental Trust Foundation, as well as internal UMW funding for undergraduate research. Students who participate in his lab at UMW have gained invaluable experience, going on to graduate school and fulfilling careers in this important field.
Carolyn Willmore (Environmental Science, ’23) found her experience with this research a formative part of her time at UMW, and plans to pursue graduate students in Environmental Toxicology:
My undergrad research experience with Dr. Frankel was my favorite part of attending UMW and set me far apart from other science students post-grad. From attending professional conferences, performing funded field and laboratory work, and co-authoring a paper about my undergrad work, I had an amazing research experience. Because of this work with Dr. Frankel, this past summer of 2023 I landed an internship with FMC Corporation and was able to experience working in a professional laboratory setting at a company with high industry standards.
Another student, Elizabeth Tyler, also found her undergraduate research work to be an invaluable experience that has helped her develop skills that she uses every day in her job with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.
Doing research with Dr. Frankel and the rest of my lab group was one of the best experiences that I had in college. Before I joined the lab, I didn’t have much direction regarding what I wanted to do with my environmental science degree. After doing such interesting and impactful work along with the guidance of Dr Frankel, I now feel much more confident in my career path and have a better idea of what I want to do in the future. I currently work at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments as a field research assistant, where I do watershed monitoring in the Anacostia watershed. Although what I do now is a bit different from our trace metals research, I still use many of the skills I developed in doing research with Dr. Frankel, including field sampling skills, excel skills, and GIS mapping skills. Additionally, attending and presenting at conferences helped me improve my public speaking skills, writing skills, and networking capabilities. Most importantly, all these experiences in the lab, the field, and at conferences have helped me become more confident in my scientific abilities and in myself, which has been incredibly helpful both in my career and in my daily life.
Dr. Frankel’s research has resulted in numerous publications. Recently, an article highlighting the hidden impacts of coal ash contamination coming from the Possum Point Powerplant in Stafford, VA was published in the competitive journal Environmental Pollution. This work is being picked up by the Potomac Riverkeepers, the VA DEQ, and the Southern Environmental Law Center for use in ongoing litigation. Dr. Frankel’s work and his students were also featured in the Chesapeake Bay Journal. Not surprisingly, Dr. Frankel was the 2023 recipient of the UMW Alumni Outstanding Young Faculty Award!